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Vintage Armenian Textbooks, Grammars, and Readers ~ Part I

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Treasures of NAASR's Mardigian Library ~ Vintage Armenian Textbooks, Grammars, and Readers, Part I

Over the course of decades—indeed, centuries—innumerable Armenian textbooks have been published for the purpose of providing instruction in the Armenian language or more general topics to young readers. A substantial number of such books have made their way into NAASR’s Mardigian Library.

Although no longer used for instruction, they are informative sources of information on past pedagogical practices, as well as frequently being charming and beautiful objects in their own right. Many, if not most, of these books show signs of being heavily used and are well worn. Far from diminishing their importance, this evidence of use, likely, in some cases, by multiple generations, has become part of the meaning conveyed to us today by these books. Presented is a sampling of these books in this 2-part feature, with 9 titles featured below and another 9 to follow in part 2.

In the text below, we use the transliteration most appropriate for each individual title, depending on whether the book is in Classical, Eastern, or Western Armenian. (For the most part they are in Western Armenian.) The publication information given is for the item shown—in some cases the Mardigian Library holds numerous copies of multiple editions of these titles. In some cases we employ the more familiar form of an author’s name in the text (e.g., Aram Andonian rather than Andonean or Antonean). In all cases, the books are catalogued according to the Library of Congress. We recognize the potential ungainliness of this approach, which combines Armenian script with various modes of transliteration, and beg the reader’s forbearance. As always, we welcome additional information and/or corrections regarding the books featured.

Title: Hayeren k‘erakanut‘iwn: I pets zargats‘elots‘ = Հայերէն քերականութիւն: Ի պէտս զարգացելոց
Author: H. Arsenē Komitasay Bakradunwoy = Հ. Արսենէ Կոմիտասայ Բագրատունւոյ (Arsen Bagratuni/Bakraduni)
Publication Information: I Venetik: I Vans Srboyn Ghazaru [Venice, San Lazzaro], 1852; in Classical Armenian
Physical Details: 744 p.; 23 cm.
Source: NAASR Mardigian Library Special Collections, from the Library of Fr. Krikor Guerguerian

Writer, linguist, Armenologist, philosopher, and translator Arsen Bagratuni (1790-1866) was a member of the Mekhitarist Congregation. In 1846 he published the book Tarerk‘ Hayerēn k‘erakanut‘ean dpratants‘ tghots‘ hamar (Տարերք Հայերէն քերականութեան դպրատանց տղոց համար, Elements of Armenian Grammar for Boys at School), which had eight editions until 1875. In 1852 he published Hayerēn k‘erakanowt‘iwn: I pēts zargats‘elots‘, a textbook for grabar (Classical Armenian). This work, an advanced grammar book for students and teachers, was a result of his more than four decades of translating, teaching, and researching. (Pages from Hayeren k‘erakanut‘iwn, 1852)


Title: Tasakirk' Srpazan Badmut‘ean Hin ew Nor Gdagarani i beds tbrotsats‘ = Դասագիրք Սրբազան Պատմութեան Հին եւ Նոր Կտակարանի ի պէտս դպրոցաց
Author: None specified
Publication Information: G. Bolis: Markarean, 1890 (5th printing); in Western Armenian
Physical Details: 144 p.; 19 cm.
Source: NAASR Mardigian Library Special Collections, from the collection of Alice Sourian

The first edition of this Textbook of Sacred History of the Old and New Testaments for Schools was published in 1871 in Constantinople. The Mardigian Library has the 5th edition.

The book has two sections. The first covers the Old Testament in 6 parts: from the creation of the world to the Flood (1656 years); from the Flood to Abraham’s being called by God (498 years); from Abraham to the departure of the Israelites from Egypt (390 years); from the departure of the Israelites from Egypt to the Kingdom of Israel (418 years); from the Kingdom of Israel to Babylon (484 years); from Babylon to the coming of Christ (607 years). The second part encompasses the New Testament in three sections: From the birth of Christ to the commencement of his preaching; the preaching of Christ and his suffering; after Christ and the preaching of his disciples. (Pages from Tasakirk' Srpazan Badmut‘ean, 1890)

Title: Hamarod Tasakirk‘ Ěnthanur Badmut‘ean = Համառօտ Դասագիրք Ընդհանուր Պատմութեան
Author: H. Hagovp Diroyean = Հ. Յակովբ Տիրոյեան (1863-1933)
Publication Information: Venetik: Mkhit‘arean dbaran, 1897; in Western Armenian
Physical Details: v.1: 244 p.; v.2: 420 p.; 19 cm
Source: NAASR Mardigian Library Special Collections, from the collection of Harout J. Torossian

The two volumes of this Brief Textbook of General History have a question-and-answer format. The subtitle of the first volume is The History of Eastern Nations, Greeks, and Romans. It has 17 parts including the history of China, India, Egypt, Assyria, Israel, Phoenicia, Media, Greece, Rome, and the Roman Empire. The subtitle of the second volume is The History of Middle Age and New Century. It has 29 parts, covering from the 5th century to 1879. (Pages from vol. 1 of Hamarod Tasakirk‘ Ěnthanur Badmut‘ean)


Title: Tʿankaran = Թանգարան 
Authors: H[rant] Asadur and Z[abel] Asadur = Հ[րանդ] Ասատուր, Զ[ապէլ] Ասատուր
Publication Information: G. Bolis: Dbakrut‘iwn H. Madt‘ēosean, 1908; in Western Armenian
Physical Details: 328 p.; 18 cm.
Source: NAASR Mardigian Library [SC G], from the collection of Hagop Atamian

Philologist, editor, and literary critic Hrant Asadur (1862-1928) together with his wife, the poet, writer, publisher, educator, and philanthropist Zabel Asatur (1863-1934), better known by her literary pseudonym Sibil (= Սիպիլ), compiled the language and literature textbooks T‘ankaran (meaning a museum or collection) for elementary, middle, and higher education, published several times from 1908 until the 1940s. The Mardigian Library has many copies of various editions. (Pages from T'ankaran, 1908)

Title: Meghraked = Մեղրագետ
Author: Rubēn Zartarean = Ռուբէն Զարդարեան
Publication Information: G. Bolis: Artsiw Zhoghovrtagan Kravacharanotsi, 1911; in Western Armenian
Physical Details: 502 p.; 19 cm.
Source: NAASR Mardigian Library, from the Hairenik Association collection

Armenian writer, educator, editor, and political activist Ruben Zartarian (1874-1915) first published Meghraked in Constantinople in 1911 (Meghraked is a river in Western Armenia; the name literally means honey river). Meghraked includes Armenian as well

as foreign writers, including European and Turkish authors. The books were subsequently republished in Boston by Hairenik. In the introduction to the Hairenik edition, the publisher explains that mothers, teachers, and various educated people approached them and asked about good textbooks. As a result, they decided to publish Zartarian’s textbooks after obtaining the permission of his family. Zartarian had been killed in 1915 during the Armenian Genocide.(Pages from Meghraked, 1911, and the cover of a well-worn copy of the 1918 Hairenik Press edition of Meghraked)


Title: Kantsaran = Գանձարան
Author: Aram Andonean = Արամ Անտոնեան
Publication Information: G. Bolis: Kradun H. Kělěchean, 1912; in Western Armenian
Physical Details: 502 p.; 18 cm.
Source: NAASR Mardigian Library, from the collection of Eunice Gick

Noted author Aram Andonian (1875-1951) first published the popular and widely used Kantsaran (meaning treasury or treasure house) in 1907. These textbooks were republished many times until the 1970s, with separate volumes for three different student groups: Elementary (տարրական), Secondary (Միջին), and High School (Բարձրագոյն). The textbooks contain prose and poetry by Western and Eastern Armenian writers, as well as translations from the works of European authors, including a number of women writers. Following each text there is a biography of the author, vocabulary, and assignments. The Mardigian Library has various editions from 1911 through 1960. (Pages from Kantsaran, 1912)

Title: Oshagan Nor K‘eragan = Օշական Նոր Քերական
Author: None specified
Publication Information: G. Bolis: Dbaran H. Madt‘ēosean, 1914; in Western Armenian
Physical Details: 24 p.; 19cm.
Source: NAASR Mardigian Library, from the collection of Manoog S. Young

This illustrated Oshagan textbook presents simple texts both in printed letters and in cursive for students learning reading and writing. Oshagan or Oshakan is a village in Armenia, and the location of the grave of Mesrob Mashtots. The NAASR library also has copies of the Oshagan Nor Ěnt'ertsaran (Օշական Նոր Ընթերցարան) for more advanced students. (Pages from Oshagan Nor K‘eragan, 1914)

Title: Osgekedag: Hayerēn lezui nor tasěntʿatsʿkʿ = Ոսկեգետակ: Հայերէն լեզուի նոր դասընթացք
Author: Areknaz Darsayij [Aregnaz Tarsayich] = Արեգնազ Տարսայիճ
Publication Information: G. Bolis: Kradun A. Eazěchean, 1915; in Western Armenian
Physical Details: 95 p.; 20 cm.
Source: NAASR Mardigian Library, from the collection of the Hairenik Association

On the first page of this book the reader is informed that on January 10, 1913, Aregnaz Tarsayich of Vayots Dzor from Shushi wrote to the publisher and bookstore owner A. Eazěchean, that 6 manuscripts of the Osgekedag (meaning golden river) series were sent by mail as a result of their previous correspondence. She gave permission to the publisher to make any required changes according to the Western Armenian language and the educational system. It seems that in 1915 the first two of the six books were published. The textbook contains 47 lessons, each lesson with a text accompanied by a vocabulary list and assignments. (Pages from Osgekedag, 1915)


Title: Haykirk‘: Amerikahay Manugneru Hamar = Հայգիրք Ամերիկահայ Մանուկներու համար
Author: Dig. G. A. Nazar = Տիկ. Կ. Ա. Նազար
Publication Information: Bostěn: Eran Dbaran, 1917; in Western Armenian
Physical Details: 64 p.; 16 cm.
Source: NAASR Mardigian Library

The author of this book for Armenian-American children, Gulenia Nazar, was the wife of the well-known Boston-Armenian writer and community figure A. Nazar. She was an educator and writer, and was the Armenian teacher of NAASR founding chairman Manoog S. Young. Originally published by Yeran in Boston in 1917, later they were republished by Baikar, also in Boston. This copy was signed by Gulenia Nazar for Miss S. Kazanjian in Cambridge, Mass (see below). (Pages from Haykirk', 1917)


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